“The Government has today said yes to cancel culture and no to free speech as it voted down my Member’s Bill that would have required tertiary education institutions to protect freedom of expression,” says ACT MP Dr James McDowall.
“Freedom of expression and academic freedom are critical values for institutions of higher learning but in recent years we’ve seen universities say no to speakers for “health and safety” reasons.
“Universities should be places where we can freely debate ideas, not places where we shut down people we don’t agree with.
“Massey University’s recently released policy on freedom of expression cites ‘mental harm to students’ as a reason that speakers may be de-platformed or events cancelled.
“Taxpayer funded institutions, through their management, should not be forcing their worldview on students, using dubious claims to do so.
“Tertiary education institutions are required by the Education Act and the Bill of Rights Act to uphold academic freedom and freedom of expression, but it is currently not a condition of funding that institutions adhere to these requirements.
“The Education (Freedom of Expression) Amendment Bill would have ensured tertiary education institutions complied by a code or practice or been ineligible for funding, had funding suspended, revoked, or withdrawn, if they failed to comply with the requirement to protect freedom of expression.
“ACT believes free speech and freedom of expression are vital to democracy. It’s a sad day when political parties vote to stop healthy debate and want to shut people down they don’t agree with.”